The first documented instance of hop cultivation was in 736, in the Hallertau region of present-day Germany (which is today the most important production centre with about 25% of the worldwide production), although the first mention of the use of hops in brewing was in 1079.
However, some speculate that Hops were used 10,000 years ago in ancient China. Hops were introduced to British beers in the early sixteenth century, and hop cultivation began in the present-day United States in 1629.
Until mechanisation (in the late 1960s for the UK), the need for massed labour at harvest time meant hop-growing had a big social impact. Many of those hop picking in Kent were Eastenders, for whom the annual migration meant not just money in the family pocket but a welcome break from the grime and smoke of London.
Whole families would come down on special trains and live in hoppers' huts for most of September, even the smallest children helping in the fields.Today, the principal production centres for the UK are in Kent (which produces Kent Golding hops) and Worcestershire.
The UK remains an ardent producer of hops along with other important production areas including the state of Washington in the USA, Australia, Belgium, Germany, and the Czech Republic.
Hop resins are composed of two main acids: alpha and beta acids.
Alpha acids have a mild antibiotic /bacteriostatic effect against Gram-positive bacteria, and favour the exclusive activity of brewing yeast in the fermentation of beer.
Beta acids do not isomerise during the boil of wort, and have a negligible effect on beer flavour. Instead they contribute to beer's bitter aroma, and high beta acid hop varieties are often added at the end of the wort boil for aroma. Beta acids oxidize and oxidized beta acids form sulfur compounds such as DMS (dimethyl sulfide) that can give beer off-flavours of rotten vegetables or cooked corn.
The flavour imparted by hops varies by type and use: hops boiled with the beer (known as "bittering hops") produce bitterness, while hops added to beer later impart some degree of "hop flavour" (if during the final 10 minutes of boil) or "hop aroma" (if during the final 3 minutes, or less, of boil) and a lesser degree of bitterness. Adding hops after the wort has cooled and the beer has fermented is known as "dry hopping", and adds hop aroma, but no bitterness.
The degree of bitterness imparted by hops depends on the degree to which otherwise insoluble alpha acids (AAs) are isomerized during the boil, and the impact of a given amount of hops is specified in International Bitterness Units. Un-boiled hops are only mildly bitter.
Flavours and aromas are described appreciatively using terms which include "grassy", "floral", "citrus", "spicy", and "earthy". Most of the common commercial lagers have fairly low hop influence, while true pilseners should have noticeable noble hop aroma and certain ales (particularly the highly-hopped style known as India Pale Ale, or IPA) can have high levels of bitterness.
The term Noble hops traditionally refers to four varieties of hop which are low in bitterness and high in aroma. They are the central European cultivars,'Hallertauer Mittelfrueh', 'Tettnanger', 'Spalter', and 'Saaz'. They are each named for a specific region or city in which they were first grown or primarily grown.
They contain high amounts of the hop oil humulene and low amounts of alpha acids cohumulone and adhumulone, as well as lower amounts of the harsher-tasting beta acids lupulone, colupulone, and adlupulone. Humulene imparts an elegant, refined taste and aroma to beers containing it.
Their low relative bitterness but strong aroma are often distinguishing characteristics of European-style lager beer, such as Pilsener, Dunkel, and Oktoberfest/Märzen. In beer, they are considered aroma hops (as opposed to bittering hops); see Pilsner Urquell as a classic example of the Pilsener style, which showcases Noble hops.
As with grapes, the land where the hops were grown affects the hops' characteristics. Much like Dortmunder beer may only within the EU be labelled "Dortmunder" if it has been brewed in Dortmund, Noble hops may only officially be considered "Noble" if they were grown in the areas for which the hops varieties were named. 'Tettnanger' hops come from Tettnang, a small town in southern Baden-Württemberg in Germany. The region produces significant quantities of hops, and ships them to breweries throughout the world.
An English bittering hop used in some English ales. (Alpha acid: 13.5 - 16%)
An American aroma-type variety developed by Yakima Chief Ranches, similar to Cascade. (Alpha acid: 5.7-6.3% / Beta acid: 5.0-6.5%)
Popular American mid-range alpha variety developed by Virgil Gamache Farms in late 20th century. (Alpha acid: 8-11% / Beta acid: 6-7% )
British bittering hop developed in 1934 from Bullion. Occasionally used as aroma variety with noble hops. (Alpha acid 5.5 - 6.5% / Beta acid 2.5 - 3.5%)
Very successful and well-established American aroma hop developed by Oregon State University's breeding program in 1956 from Fuggle and Serebrianker (a Russian variety), but not released for cultivation until 1972. Piney, citrusy, and quite assertive. One of the Three Cs. (Alpha acid: 4.5 - 6.0% / Beta acid: 5.0 - 7.0% )
American aroma-type variety bred in 1974 and released in 1990. Similar to Cascade and Chinnok. One of the Three Cs. (Alpha acid: 9.5 - 11.5% / Beta acid: 4.0 - 5.0%)
English hop with fresh pine notes. (Alpha acid 6.5 - 8.5% / Beta acid 4 - 4.5%)
American cross between Petham Golding and a USDA-selected male. Typical American citric pine hop with notable grapefruit and pineapple flavours. One of the Three Cs. (Alpha acid 12.0 - 14.0% / Beta acid 3.0 - 4.0%)
Originated from mass selection of the Cluster hop, which is an old American cultivar. It is suggested that they arose from hybridization of varieties, imported by Dutch and English settlers and indigenous male hops. (Alpha acid: 5.5 - 8.5% / Beta acid: 4.5 - 5.5%) Also known as Golden Cluster, used as the sole bittering hop in the iconic Queensland, Australia beer XXXX Gold and XXXX Bitter.
A high yielding, high alpha acid American bittering hop. (Alpha acid 14 - 17%)
An American triploid variety developed in 1993 from Hallertau, Cascade, Brewer's Gold and Early Green. Quite aromatic, fruity. (Alpha acid 3.5 - 5.5% / Beta acid 4.5 - 6.5%)
A strongly flavoured bittering hop used in wheat beers. (Alpha acid 9 - 12%)
English dwarf hop. A cross-pollination of Whitbread Golding variety and a dwarf male. It is like a spicier Golding, with a higher alpha and slightly richer bitterness. (Alpha acid 6.5 - 8.5% / Beta acid 3 - 4%)
Main English hop developed late 19th century. Considered by some to be less refined than Goldings, others prefer its juicier, more woody character. (Alpha acid 4 - 5.5% / Beta acid 2 - 3%)
American bittering hop developed from Brewer's Gold by open pollination in the state of Idaho. Has a moderate bitterness despite its high alpha content. (Alpha acid 12 - 14% / Beta acid 7 - 9%)
Low-cohumulone American Fuggle descendant. Mild bittering and soft, fruity character with hints of apricot and pear. (Alpha Acid 5.5% / Beta Acid 8.2%)
The traditional and very popular English aroma hop. Developed in 1790. Soft, earthy, vaguely farm-like aroma. Widely cultivated. Called East Kent Goldings if grown in East Kent, Kent Goldings if grown in mid-Kent, and Goldings if grown elsewhere. (Alpha acid 4 - 5.5% / Beta acid 2 - 3.5%)
The original German lager hop; due to susceptibility to crop disease was largely replaced by Hersbrucker in the 1970s and 1980s. (Alpha acid 3.5 - 5.5% / Beta acid 3 - 4%)
Noble hop used in German pale lagers. Noted for grass and hay aroma. (Alpha acid 3 - 5.5% / Beta acid 4 - 5.5%)
American high alpha cross made in Oregon in 1970 from Nugget. Soft bitterness. (Alpha acid 11 - 13% / Beta acid 6.5 - 8.5%)
American cross between Hallertauer Mittlefruh and downy mildew resistant male, developed in 1983. (Alpha acid 3.0 - 5.0% / Beta acid 3.0 - 4.0%)
The grassy, hay-like signature of Polish lagers. The bitterness is slightly harsher than noble varieties, but the aroma is a little bit softer.
A bittering/aroma type cultivar, bred in 1980 at Huell, the German Hop Research Instititute, from the American variety Galena and the German male 75/5/3. (Alpha acid: 10.0-12.6% / Beta acid: 5.0-7.0%)
Bittering variety, bred from Nugget and with similar characteristics. (Alpha acid 15.5% / Beta acid 4.8%)
Soft American variety developed from Hallertau. Frequently used in styles that require only a subtle hop aroma. (Alpha acid 5.0 - 8.0% / Beta acid 5.0 - 7.5%)
Recently developed American high-alpha bittering hop. (Alpha acid 10 - 17%)
Dual purpose hop in England developed in 1970s, with a Northern Brewer-like bitterness, and soft aroma. (Alpha acid 7.5 - 9.5% / Beta acid 5 - 5.5%)
Developed in England in 1934 from a cross between a female hop of wild American parentage and an English male. Grown in Europe and America as a dual-purpose hop, but the aroma is mellow, so is mainly used for bittering in combination with other hops. (Alpha acid 8 - 10% / Beta acid 3 - 5%)
Bittering hop. (Alpha Acid 12 - 14% / Beta Acid 4 - 6%)
High alpha bittering hop from New Zealand. Most are organic. Pleasant woody flavour and berry aroma. . (Alpha Acid 14 - 16% / Beta Acid Acids 8 - 8.4%)
German dual-purpose hop, with floral, spicy aroma. Often used in combination with other hops. (Alpha Acid 7 - 9.5% / Beta Acid 4 - 5%)
Pride of Ringwood
Infamous Australian hop. First used in 1965 when it was the highest alpha acid hop in the world. Used extensively in Australian pale ales and lagers. (Alpha Acid 7 - 10% / Beta Acid 4 - 6%)
Higher alpha English hop developed in the 1960s as a replacement for Fuggles. Often used with Goldings. (Alpha Acid 5 - 7% / Beta Acid 2 - 2.5%)
Noble hop. Pilsner Urquell. Used extensively in Bohemia, and found in most Czech pale lagers. Soft yet pleasing aroma and bitterness. (Alpha Acid 3 - 4.5% /Beta Acid 3 - 4.5%)
American floral aroma hop with mid-range alpha acid. (Alpha Acid 5 - 7% / Beta Acid 6 - 8%)
A bittering-type cultivar of recent origin. (Alpha acid: 12.5 - 14.0% / Beta acid: 8.5 - 9.0%)
German disease-resistant Hallertauer and Spalt pale lager variety developed in early 1990s. (Alpha Acid 4 - 6% / Beta Acid 3.5 - 4.5%)
American high alpha variety released in 2000. Distinctive passionfruit flavour and aroma where Simcoe hops are utilised late in the boil (ie, boiled for between 20 and 0 minutes). (Alpha Acid 12 - 14% / Beta Acid 4 - 5%)
Traditional German noble hop, with a delicate, spicy aroma. (Alpha Acid 4 - 5% / Beta Acid 4 - 5%)
American floral hop released in 1998. A cross between Saaz and Mount Hood in character but easier to grow. (Alpha Acid 6 - 9% / Beta Acid 4 - 6%)
French aroma hop from Alsace, used mostly in pale lagers. Similar to Herbrucker. (Alpha Acid 3 - 5% / Beta Acid 3 - 5.5%)
Slovenian variant of Fuggles. Used in English ales and Belgian strong ales amongst others. (Alpha acid: 4.5 - 6.0% / Beta acid: 2.5 - 3.5%)
Dusty, earthy English mid-to-high alpha hop bred from Kent Goldings. (Alpha Acid 9.5 - 12.5% / Beta Acid 5 - 5.5%)
Noble German dual use hop used in European pale lagers, sometimes with Hallertau. Soft bitterness. (Alpha Acid 3.5 - 5.5% / Beta Acid 3.5 - 5.5%)
Bittering hop. (Alpha acid: 14 - 18% / Beta acid: 4.5 - 5.8%)
Bred in 1991 from Hallertau Mittlefruh by the Hull Hop Research Institute in Germany for resistance to disease. Grassy like Hallertau, but easier to grow. (Alpha Acid 5 - 7% / Beta Acid 4 - 5%)
A triploid aroma-type cultivar, originated in 1983 from a cross between the colchicine-induced tetraploid Hallertau mf (USDA 21397) and the diploid Saazer-derived male genotype (USDA 21237m). Ultra is the half-sister to Mt. Hood, Liberty and Crystal. Its genetic composition is 4/6 Hallertau mf, 1/6 Saazer, and 1/6 unknown. This cultivar was released for commercial production in March, 1995. (Alpha acid: 4.5 - 5.0% / Beta acid: 3.6 - 4.7%)
American aroma cross developed from Hallertau in 1982. (Alpha acid 5.5% - 6% / Beta acid 6 - 7%)
New American bittering hop, popular with growers and brewers. (Alpha Acid 15 - 17% / Beta Acid 4.5 - 5.5%)
Popular American development in 1976 of the English Fuggle. Mild aroma hop, with an herbal, sometimes gently fruity character. (Alpha acid 4.0 - 6.0% / Beta acid 3.0 - 4.0%)
American aromatic high-alpha hop with noticeable bitterness. (Alpha acid 15.0%)